Forbidden Fruit | Illegal Pesticides in the US Food Supply

Illegal Pesticides in the U.S. Food Supply

Wednesday, February 1, 1995

Forbidden Fruit | Illegal Pesticides in the US Food Supply

Illegal Pesticides in the U.S. Food Supply

Most people believe that the produce they buy meets pesticide safety standards. But as this study shows, fruits and vegetables with illegal pesticides end up on grocery shelves, in kitchens, and in lunchboxes throughout the country every day.

Forbidden Fruit analyzes 14,923 computerized records from the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) routine pesticide monitoring program for the fiscal years 1992 and 1993. We focused our investigation on 42 fruits and vegetables that respectively comprise 96 and 83 percent of domestic fruit and vegetable consumption.

The core of the analysis is the substantial variance between the illegal pesticides identified by FDA chemists and the pesticides reported as violations of the law by FDA enforcement personnel. This discrepancy is troubling because it points to a serious breach in the government's ability to ensure that the food supply is safe from illegal pesticides.

Over 90 percent of the violations reported in Forbidden Fruit involve two kinds of illegal pesticides: no-tolerance violations, where the pesticide is found on a crop even though the allowable level for the pesticide on that crop is zero; and over-tolerance violations, where the amount of the pesticide found exceeds the legal limit (or tolerance) for that crop.

Among our most important findings:

Many pesticides that have been banned or restricted for health reasons were found illegally on scores of different foods. Examples include:

Captan, a probable human carcinogen banned on 30 crops by the EPA for health reasons--found illegally on 14 of these crops.

Chlorpyrifos (Dursban), a potent neurotoxin heavily used in schools and homes but restricted to use on certain foods to protect young children from additional exposure--found illegally on 16 crops.

Endosulfan, a chemical cousin of DDT that mimics the female hormone estrogen in the human body--found illegally on 10 crops.

  • Some major fruits and vegetables have very high rates of illegal pesticides. During 1992 and 1993, one-quarter of all green peas contained illegal pesticides, as did 15.7 percent of pears, 12.5 percent of apple juice, 11.7 percent of all green onions, 7.6 percent of green beans, and 7.4 percent of all strawberries.
  • Important crops from major suppliers have even higher violation rates, including green peas from Guatemala, with a 40.8 percent violation rate, strawberries from Mexico, with an 18.4 percent violation rate, green onions from the United States at 16.7 percent, head lettuce from Mexico at 15.6 percent, pears from the United States at 14.3 percent, carrots from Mexico at 12.3 percent, and tomatoes from the United States at 9.4 percent.
  • From one-third to one-half of all the pesticide residues detected on some crops were illegal. This includes 51.7 percent of the detected residues on apple juice, 50.6 percent on green peas, 28.4 percent on pineapples, 26.4 percent on pears, and 22.6 percent on carrots. These high rates point toward a potentially high level of illegal pesticide use on these crops that is likely escaping detection by the state enforcement authorities and the FDA.

  • There were at least 66 different illegal pesticides on the 42 fruits and vegetables we analyzed. Seventeen different illegal pesticides were found on green peas, 14 on squash, 12 on strawberries, 11 on carrots and pears, and 10 on cantaloupes and bell peppers.

The rate of illegal pesticides on 42 heavily consumed fruits and vegetables is 76 percent higher than reported by the FDA. The FDA reported a 3.1 percent violation rate for the 42 fruits and vegetables studied in this report. The FDA identified illegal residues on 5.6 percent of the 14,923 samples analyzed.

U.S.-grown produce is more than twice as contaminated with illegal pesticides than the FDA reports. The agency claims that domestically grown produce contains illegal pesticides only 1.5 percent of the time (FDA 1993, 1994b). Our analysis shows that this figure is 3.1 percent. This two-fold underestimate is important because the lion's share of fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. are domestically grown. For some major U.S. crops the violation rates are well above average, including green onions at 16.7 percent, pears at 14.3 percent, tomatoes at 9.4 percent, green peas at 8.6 percent, and peaches at 6.1 percent.

The situation is similar for imported produce. The FDA reports 4.0 percent of imports with illegal pesticides; its records indicate that the rate is 7.4 percent. For countries which export tens of millions of pounds of produce to the U.S. each year, the worst discrepancies include:

  • Guatemala: an actual violation rate of 24.8 percent (due mostly to snowpeas and blackberries); the FDA reports 13.8 percent.
  • Mexico: an actual violation rate exceeding 7.4 percent; the FDA reports only 4.0 percent.
  • Canada: an actual violation rate of 5.0 percent; the FDA reports only 1.6 percent.

Problems with the FDA pesticide monitoring program are not new. Since 1980, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) has published 22 reports detailing the shortcomings of the FDA pesticide monitoring program.

Time and again the GAO has found that the FDA's equipment, sampling strategies and legal authority are no match for the task at hand. As a result, virtually all of the illegal pesticides reported by the FDA are eaten by an unsuspecting public (GAO 1992d, 1994b). Certainly illegal pesticides that are not reported are consumed by the public as well.

The American public eats billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables contaminated with illegal pesticides each year. In fact, a person eating the USDA's recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, will eat illegal pesticides in these fruits and vegetables at least 75 times per year. In contrast, the average consumer has to eat about 100 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in order to eat from a shipment tested for pesticides by the FDA. This means that the average American is at least 15 times more likely to eat an illegal pesticide than to eat from a shipment tested by the FDA.

The FDA's failure to catch illegal pesticides stems in part from the agency's lack of legal authority and money to tackle such a gargantuan task, and in part from day to day management failures. The agency does not have a computerized pesticide tolerance database to monitor test results for illegal pesticides. All results are scrutinized by hand, and violations are flagged by a lab technician supposedly familiar with the tolerance limits. It is clear that this process fails to work effectively or efficiently, and that it routinely allows shipments of produce with illegal pesticides to be unwittingly purchased and eaten.

Recommendations

More taxpayer money is not the answer to FDA's problems. In fact, there is not enough money in the entire FDA food regulatory budget to fix the pesticide monitoring program in its current form. What is needed is a fundamental restructuring that shifts much of the responsibility for assuring food safety and compliance with federal law to its appropriate place: the food industry. In simplest terms, individuals and corporations who sell food treated with pesticides must assure that the levels remaining on the food comply with federal limits. Currently there is little reason to believe this is true.

A more efficient and cost-effective approach to ensure compliance with pesticide tolerances would be one based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) methods. HACCP is being used to tackle microbial contamination problems in the seafood industry, and recently it has been adopted by food companies and other industries. HACCP is a systems approach to food safety, emphasizing quality control from the start of the process and through each critical stage. Under HACCP, responsibility for ensuring safety of the food supply is shared between government and industry.

As a result, a HACCP approach creates a more appropriate and realistic role for the FDA. Under this system the private sector would be responsible for residue testing; the FDA would police the testing process and focus its limited testing resources on trouble spots.

Elements of a HACCP Approach

Three important elements must be present and working symbiotically for a HACCP approach to be successful:

  • Third-party certification
  • Recordkeeping and public disclosure
  • Education

Third-party certification. All domestic and imported food shipments must be sampled and tested for compliance with food tolerances by third parties using approved FDA pesticide analytical methods. The FDA should audit these monitoring results quarterly through mandatory analyses of spiked blind samples.

The FDA and taxpayers should not be solely responsible for all pesticide residue monitoring and enforcement. Instead, the food sector of the economy, which accounts for a greater percentage of the GNP than the health care industry, must be required to prove with reasonable certainty that imported and domestic food marketed in the United States meets U.S. food safety standards. This means testing and providing documentation of compliance with pesticide tolerances for all shipments of produce sold in the United States.

Recordkeeping and public disclosure. All pesticides applied to a crop must be listed on each domestic and imported shipment. This list must include pesticides whose residues typically degrade below levels normally detected by routine analysis, as well as those likely to leave residues. Civil penalties must be available to the FDA as an enforcement mechanism when pesticides not listed are found on a shipment. Lists must be made available to the public upon request.

Records are good business practice and an integral facet of any HACCP program. Under the current system, the FDA has only cursory knowledge of the pesticides applied to a given crop, and is then forced to rely on multiresidue methods of detection, hoping that the reach of these tests will catch all of the violative residues. Due to their relatively high cost, the FDA rarely uses single residue methods needed to find many heavily used carcinogenic compounds like the EBDC fungicides. A recordkeeping requirement would enable both third-party inspectors and FDA labs to use their resources more wisely in searching for pesticides on food. Public access to these records and civil fines for confirmed disparities between the records and residues found would act as an additional deterrent to illegal pesticide use.

Education. New systems must be created to provide growers with up-to-date information about the acceptable use of pesticides on food. For importers, the FDA must provide this information in the importing countries' primary language.

Growers--importers and domestic producers--must be kept fully versed on the tolerance system in the United States. To make this happen, the FDA must assemble and make publicly available a computerized, on-line pesticide tolerance system that is updated monthly. Questions about pesticide label rates and tolerances should be handled by an easy-to-reach phone hotline. At the same time, growers should be encouraged to reduce the use of pesticides through integrated pest management strategies and alternatives to chemicals.

Foreword

They're breaking the law. You're paying the price.

Fruit and vegetable growers in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Canada and elsewhere are using pesticides that cannot be used under U.S. law on crops that end up on America's tables every day. Some of the pesticides, like the cancer-causing fungicide Captan, have been banned for use on certain crops by our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they pose a significant health risk. But those compounds are still showing up on scores of the very fruits and vegetables on which the EPA has refused or revoked legal use.

We don't know just how many foreign or domestic producers are breaking federal pesticide laws. Neither does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for monitoring the food supply for pesticides. But as Forbidden Fruit documents for the first time, illegal pesticide use is as common as it is serious.

This study should give pause to anyone who has listened to the full-throated assault recently directed against the FDA by some congressional leaders, their backers in industry, and their lyricists in conservative think tanks. The most excitable FDA-bashers would eliminate the agency altogether, leaving it to the pharmaceutical, food, and medical device industries to police themselves on the safety and efficacy of their products.*

We've had our own complaints about the FDA over the years, chiefly over the inadequacies of its pesticide monitoring program. But the problem of illegal pesticide use lies not with the FDA, but with those who make their living growing and selling produce to the American public. In Forbidden Fruit, Susan Elderkin, Richard Wiles and Christopher Campbell advance a trust-but-verify strategy for catching illegal use of pesticides. As a policy pitch, it's not 100,000 more food cops on the street. It's individual responsibility meets right-to-know. Law-abiding, self-policing types in the food industry will welcome it. The lawbreakers will need more lawyers and a big ol' compost pile.

Introduction

Forbidden Fruit is the fourth in a series of Environmental Working Group reports on pesticides in food and drinking water. Our previous studies, Tap Water Blues; Washed, Peeled: Contaminated; and Pesticides in Children's Food; are original analyses of federal government information designed to help the public and policy-makers better understand the issue of pesticides in food and water, with special attention to the risks faced by the very young.

Under the current pesticide regulatory system, infants and children receive no special protection from pesticides. Instead, children receive adult doses of many different pesticides each day, in combinations and mixtures that have never been tested for their toxic effects. Our work over the past two years has shown that:

  • In a three-year period, from 1990 through 1992, the FDA found 103 different pesticides in just 22 commonly consumed fruits and vegetables (Wiles and Campbell 1993).
  • Washing or peeling does little to reduce or eliminate the numbers or levels of most pesticides found on fruits and vegetables. Up to eight different pesticides were found on a single apple sample after it had been washed and made ready to eat (Wiles and Campbell 1994).
  • Pesticide mixtures in food and water are extremely common. In fact, it is not unusual for children to eat single pieces of fruits or vegetables with five or more pesticides on them. In contrast, safety standards for pesticides assume that people are exposed to one pesticide at a time. No accounting is made for pesticide combinations (Wiles and Campbell 1993, 1994).
  • Since 1987, 67 pesticides or pesticide metabolites have been detected in rivers and reservoirs used for drinking water in the Midwest. None are removed by routine drinking water treatment (Wiles, Cohen et al. 1994).
  • Over 11 million people in the nine Corn Belt states and Louisiana drink tap water that is routinely contaminated with at least one of five cancer-causing herbicides. Hundreds of thousands of infants in these states drink infant formula and juices reconstituted with this herbicide-contaminated drinking water (Wiles, Cohen et al. 1994).
  • Exposure to pesticides in food and water is disproportionately heavy early in life. Up to 35 percent of lifetime exposure to some carcinogenic pesticides occurs by age five (Wiles and Campbell 1993).

Illegal Pesticides in Food

Forbidden Fruit investigates the enforcement of food tolerances as reported in the Food and Drug Administration's Pesticide Monitoring Database for the fiscal years 1992 and 1993. Instead of analyzing what is wrong with legal levels of exposure, Forbidden Fruit analyzes how often current exposure is not legal in the first place. We found pervasive exposure to illegal pesticides on 42 heavily consumed fruits and vegetables (Table 1).

Table 1. Annual consumption estimates for the fruits and vegetables analyzed in Forbidden Fruit.

Table showing annual consumption estimates for the fruits and vegetables analyzed in Forbidden Fruit

Figures are from 1992.
n/a=not available
The 42 fruits and vegetables include the 38 commodities listed above, as well as green onions, shallots, leeks, and nectarines.
1. Berries-other includes black raspberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, lingonberries, loganberries, etc.
2. Onions include bulb, green, shallots, and leeks.
Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures, 1970-1992. USDA. Economic Research Service. Statistical Bulletin Number 867. September 1993.

Many of the problems we found are inherent to the nearly impossible task of monitoring the entire food supply for over 600 pesticides used worldwide that may or may not be in any given sample of food. The FDA's enforcement authority is extraordinarily feeble, eviscerating any potential deterrent value that FDA pesticide monitoring may have. And sprawled over the top of this unforgiving charge are federal management schemes that are poorly conceived and technologically antiquated, virtually guaranteeing most of the problems exposed in this report.

Nonetheless, when asked, the FDA maintains that its monitoring results and other pesticide data indicate that the U.S. food supply is safe. This claim is grounded in the assertion that pesticide violation rates are relatively low, at 1.5 percent for domestic produce and about 3.9 percent for imported fruits and vegetables, for an overall rate of 2.8 percent (FDA 1993b, 1994c).

At its best, this claim is misleading. It neatly sidesteps the scientific consensus that legal levels of exposure to pesticides have little to do with safety, particularly for infants and children, (see The National Academy of Sciences Found Legal Exposure to Pesticides is No Guarantee of Safety for Infants and Children). And it masks the violation rates for some crops that are far higher than the average rate for the entire food supply. At its worst, the FDA's claim is just plain wrong and contradicted by its own data.

Our initial review of the FDA's Pesticide Monitoring Database revealed pervasive problems with the agency's monitoring of the food supply for pesticides. Particularly glaring were situations where illegal residues were found by FDA chemists on fruits and vegetables, but where these same residues were not reported as illegal by the agency. This discrepancy led to the detailed audit of the FDA residue monitoring program that forms the body of this report.

Organization of the Report

Chapter 1 revisits problems identified by the General Accounting Office (GAO) in past audits of the FDA monitoring program. Since 1980, no fewer than 22 reports from the GAO have documented serious problems with the FDA's ability to adequately police pesticides in the food supply. None, however, turned up the problems found in this report.

Chapter 2 provides an analysis of our results. We examine the nature and extent of pesticide violations and the discrepancies between the illegal pesticides identified by FDA chemists and those reported as violations. The results are presented on a crop, country, and chemical-specific basis.

Chapter 3 presents our conclusions and recommendations to improve pesticide monitoring. The Appendix describes the methodology for our audit of the FDA's Pesticide Monitoring Database. It details our data sources and the creation and refinement of the pesticide tolerance database used to examine the FDA pesticide monitoring program.

The National Academy of Sciences Found that Legal Exposure to Pesticides is No Guarantee of Safety for Infants and Children

In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed a five-year study, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. As a whole, the NAS found the entire pesticide tolerance and regulatory system lacking and especially inadequate in protecting young children.

In particular, the Academy condemned the current tolerance setting process, exposing a cascade of shortcomings to support its view that infants and children are not protected from pesticides even when exposures are within legal limits. The bottom line of the Academy report: legal pesticide exposure is no guarantee of safety for young children. The NAS found that:

  • Legal limits (called tolerances) for pesticides in food are not set at levels that protect the public health, but instead represent a balance of health and economic interests.
    "Tolerances are not based primarily on health considerations...Their primary purpose is to ensure compliance with good agricultural practice." (NRC 1993, p. 8)
  • Within this system, legal limits reflect no explicit accounting for the risks faced by infants and children.
    "The current system, however, does not specifically consider infants and children." (NRC 1993, p. 2)
  • At the same time, the Academy found that children need extra protection because they are generally more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides.
    "A fundamental maxim of pediatric medicine is that children are not 'little adults'... In the absence of data to the contrary, there should be a presumption of greater toxicity to infants and children." (NRC 1993, p. 3)
  • But, there are few toxicity studies on pesticides that are relevant to infant and neonatal exposure.
    "Current testing protocols do not, for the most part, adequately address the toxicity and metabolism of pesticides in neonates and adolescent animals or the effects of exposure during early developmental stages and their sequalae in later life." (NRC 1993, p. 4)
  • Until information is available that is relevant to neonatal exposure, the Academy recommended additional safety factors to protect infants from pesticides in food and water.
    "The committee recommends that an uncertainty factor up to the 10-fold factor... should also be considered when there is evidence of postnatal developmental toxicity and when data from toxicity testing relative to children are incomplete." (Emphasis added) (NRC 1993, p. 9)

Virtually none of the recommendations of the NAS committee have been adopted by the EPA, nor urged upon the EPA by the Congress. Consequently, since the release of the NAS report not a single tolerance for a pesticide in food has been adjusted in any way to specifically protect infants and children.

The Health Effects of Pervasive Illegal Pesticides in Food

Most pesticides are limited to use on certain crops because additional uses, such as the illegal uses identified in this report, cause the total exposure to the pesticide to exceed federal health or environmental standards. The 826 violations identified in this report are a serious public health concern because, in total, they represent a breach of the pesticide food safety system that cannot be dismissed as negligible.

For most heavily used pesticides, the EPA has reviewed the available toxicity studies and has calculated an acceptable daily dose for the pesticide based on total exposure from all food sources. Pesticide tolerances are granted or denied as a result of this review. The tolerances themselves do not, however, explicitly consider the vulnerability of infants and small children, nor do they account for other routes of exposure to pesticides, such as water or home uses. In fact, the tolerances for many heavily used pesticides exceed federal health standards by a factor of 100 or more (Fisher 1992a, 1992b). Some pesticides, such as the insecticide chlorpyrifos, are commonly found in food and are widely used around the home and garden.

It is hard to argue that an occasional, isolated illegal use of a pesticide presents a major public health threat. In contrast, the results of this study show that illegal pesticides are pervasive throughout the fruit and vegetable supply, and that the totality of the exposure undermines the credibility of the pesticide food safety system in the United States.

Exposure to Multiple Pesticides in Food Presents Serious Health Risks to Young Children

A five-year National Academy of Sciences study of pesticides in the diets of infants and children explored this issue in detail when it examined the toxicological significance of simultaneous exposure to different pesticides found in food.

Using advanced computer models designed to simulate the real world probability of multiple exposures to pesticides in food, the Academy committee examined the health consequences of routine consumption of eight different foods with residues of five pesticides commonly detected by the FDA. The five pesticides were chosen because they all inhibit the production of acetylcholinesterase in the human nervous system, contributing additively to the same toxic effect in children. The nervous system was chosen because it is incompletely developed in infants, toddlers, and young children and thus more sensitive to the effects of neurotoxins than the nervous system of adults.

The committee concluded that every day about 1.2 percent of the nation's two-year olds, or about 50,000 young children, receive a dose of these five neurotoxic pesticides in excess of the EPA's acceptable limits (NRC 1993, p. 305). The Academy concluded that:

"Although the data are weak, the committee estimated that for some children exposure could be sufficiently high to produce symptoms of acute organophosphate pesticide poisoning." (NRC 1993, p. 7)

The data supporting this calculation and conclusion are "weak" only because the survey underpinning the food consumption estimates is over 15 years old, and for two-year olds, the individual food consumption estimates are derived from a smaller than desirable sample. In fact, the NAS calculation understates exposure to the pesticides causing this neurotoxic effect for two reasons. First, approximately 20 additional pesticides routinely found in food, but not considered by the NAS, cause the same effect, and second, the committee only looked at exposure to these compounds in eight foods, ignoring other food and environmental sources.

In spite of any reservations that the committee may have had about certain aspects of the data contained in its analysis, its recommendations for improvements in the way the EPA currently assesses the risk of pesticides were unusually clear:

"All exposure to pesticides--dietary and nondietary--need to be considered when evaluating the potential risks to infants and children." (NRC 1993, p. 11).
And, "Estimates of total dietary exposure should be refined to consider intake of multiple pesticides with a common toxic effect." (NRC 1993, p. 11)

If nothing else, the Academy's analysis confirms the fact that routine exposures to combinations of different pesticides at levels that commonly occur in food can cause toxic effects in infants and children. Adding 66 different illegal pesticide uses to this mix only makes matters that much worse.

Chapter 1: FDA Monitoring and Enforcement

Criticism of FDA's pesticide residue monitoring program is not new. Since 1980 the GAO has published at least 22 reports and testified six times before the Congress about problems with FDA's pesticide monitoring program. Over the years, the GAO has repeatedly found that the FDA:

  • Fails to sample a statistically representative amount of the food supply (GAO 1994b, 1989c, 1989a, 1986c, 1986a, 1984);
  • Does not possess the knowledge and the analytical means to detect many pesticides commonly applied to food crops (GAO 1994b, 1993d, 1993b, 1989c, 1989a, 1986c, 1986a, 1984, 1980b);
  • Fails to exercise the analytical rigor needed to detect several heavily used pesticides, even when the equipment and knowledge are at hand (GAO 1994b, 1993d, 1993b, 1989c, 1989a, 1986c, 1986a, 1984, 1980b);
  • Lacks the authority, without a court order, to hold or detain U.S. produce while it is being tested, meaning that virtually all domestic food with illegal pesticide residues is eaten by the unsuspecting public (GAO 1994b, 1989a, 1986c, 1986b, 1984, 1980b);
  • Cannot require importers to post bonds of sufficient value to deter them from marketing shipments of produce containing illegal pesticides. As a result, two-thirds of imported produce with illegal pesticides is eaten by the public (GAO 1994b, 1993b, 1992d, 1989a, 1986c, 1986b, 1986a, 1984);
  • Has no authority to assess civil penalties against domestic producers whose food contains illegal pesticide residues. Because criminal charges must be brought against violators, enforcement actions are almost never initiated (GAO 1994b, 1989a, 1986c, 1984, 1981), and;
  • Has no authority to fine importers who distribute food contaminated with illegal pesticides (GAO 1994b, 1993b, 1992d, 1989a, 1986c, 1986a, 1984, 1981).

The FDA has responded effectively to some of these criticisms. For example, since the mid-1980s sampling of imported food has dramatically increased and now represents about one-half of all fruits and vegetables tested. In addition, the agency has expanded its knowledge about what pesticides are being used in foreign countries that export food to the United States. Most problems identified by the GAO, however, have not been resolved because they require more money or new legal authority, neither of which have been made available to the agency.

The bottom line is that FDA continues to operate the routine pesticide monitoring program with poor sampling strategies, outdated equipment, inadequately trained and overburdened personnel, weak enforcement authority, and no ability to assess civil penalties. The combined effect of these flaws and disincentives is to perpetuate a situation that virtually guarantees underreporting of both legal and illegal pesticide residues in food.

Sampling

Sampling will always be a problem for the FDA or for any agency that is saddled with enforcing pesticide tolerances. Without enhanced legal authority, the FDA must randomly sample for pesticides in food with no knowledge of what pesticides were applied to the crop being tested. A statistically-based random sample of pesticide residues in the food supply would require hundreds of additional samples of each crop tested, and the agency simply cannot afford it.

The FDA routinely claims that it samples about one percent of imported food shipments for pesticide residues (Young 1987, GAO 1994b, 1992d), a figure often extrapolated to incorporate the entire food supply. There are several problems with this claim. First, while it is possible that a one percent sample could provide reasonable insight into both illegal and overall residues in the food supply, such a sampling strategy would have to be extraordinarily well-targeted. The FDA surveillance program, which forms the basis for the FDA's one percent claim, is not targeted at all, but rather is designed as a random sample survey (FDA 1994b).

Second, although the FDA's one percent figure is apparently based on tested shipments, it is not clear what actually constitutes an average shipment or how the one percent figure was calculated. When pressed on the matter, FDA officials were unable to define exactly what a shipment is and how a shipment differs from crop to crop or among modes of transport. For example, a shipment of bananas would weigh considerably more than a shipment of blueberries. Likewise, a shipment from a truck would weigh less than a shipment from a cargo vessel.

Third, the FDA is conspicuously silent on the issue of domestic sampling. Although imported foods make up more than half of the samples each year, domestic fruits and vegetables respectively constitute 63 percent and 92 percent of all fruits and vegetables consumed annually in the United States (USDA 1993b). In percentage terms, this means that far less than one percent of the domestic fruit and vegetable supply is sampled and tested for pesticides.

The Environmental Working Group attempted to determine what percentage of the food supply the FDA tests by comparing the agency's routine pesticide monitoring data with information from the Agriculture Department on fruit and vegetable production and consumption. Our analysis revealed that the agency samples only about .00002 (two one-hundred-thousandths-of-one) percent of the pounds that are shipped each year of the 42 different crops analyzed in this report. In order for the FDA's one percent figure to be accurate, the average imported fruit or vegetable shipment would have to weigh 18,500 pounds, or about nine tons per shipment.

If we assume that the FDA actually does sample one percent of all imported fruits and vegetables, then an equivalent sample size applied to the domestic fruit and vegetable supply means that the FDA samples about 0.2 percent of all fruits and vegetables eaten by the American public. (Compared to imports, Americans eat 12 times more domestically grown vegetables, and nearly two times more domestically grown fruit.) Under this scenario, the average American would have to eat about 100 pounds of fruits and vegetables in order to eat from a shipment tested for pesticides by the FDA.

In recent years, however, sample sizes have been slashed. In FY 1993, the FDA took 3,550 fewer samples of fruits and vegetables than it did in FY 1992, a whopping 30 percent cut in one year. Although exact numbers for 1994 are not yet available, the overall sample size declined again and is expected to continue to shrink over the next several years (Jones 1994).

In response to criticisms about its sampling, the FDA instituted the Pesticide Incidence Level Monitoring Program in FY 1993, which provided statistically-representative sampling (800 to 1,000 samples per crop) for two commonly consumed crops each year. In the third year of the project, however, Congress eliminated the program citing the existence of a similar project at USDA which analyzed more commodities and produced superior data.

Samples of less than 800 to 1,000 per crop could provide a reasonably accurate picture of pesticides in the food supply, but only if the sampling strategy is redesigned. For example, full disclosure of pesticides used, supported by third-party sampling and residue testing, could dramatically improve the quality and volume of information on pesticide residues in food. An efficient public-private partnership such as this, however, is not possible under current law.

Data and Analytical Constraints

In its search for pesticide residues, the FDA is flying blind into an avalanche of food, looking for hundreds of tough-to-find residues, using outdated technology and haphazardly trained personnel (GAO 1994b, 1993d, 1993b, 1989a, 1986c).

The equipment available in the average FDA lab can detect only about one-half of the pesticides used on food grown around the world. This, however, is a best case scenario, which assumes that each sample will be tested thoroughly for all the pesticides likely to be present on that crop. Testimony presented by the Environmental Working Group in January 1994, before the Subcommittee on Trade and the Environment of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, illustrates how rarely FDA labs thoroughly utilize the available equipment and methods when testing for pesticides. The results presented in this report confirm that the findings presented to the Congress apply with equal force to FDA's monitoring of food produced in the United States.

Because reporting of pesticide use is not required, when the FDA gathers a sample for pesticide residue analysis, inspectors and chemists have no idea what pesticides were applied to that crop. To compensate for this deficiency, the agency relies on multi-residue pesticide detection methods (MRMs), which under optimal conditions can detect several hundred pesticides in a single sample.

Our review of three years of FDA routine residue monitoring for 22 imported fruits and vegetables shows that nearly 90 percent of FDA samples analyzed relied exclusively on multi-residue detection methods (Wiles, Elderkin et al. 1994). This means that under the best of circumstances, 90 percent of FDA's analyses of imported food could detect only half the pesticides that might have been used on a given crop. The remaining ten percent of samples analyzed by the FDA were tested with so-called single residue detection methods (SRMs), which are needed to detect the remaining 50 percent of pesticides used on food.

The obvious limitation of SRMs is that each SRM can detect only one or two pesticides. The less obvious limitation of an SRM is that on average, each SRM analysis is as expensive as an MRM that potentially can detect over 200 pesticides when fully engaged. Because the FDA has no idea what pesticides are applied to a specific shipment of food, the agency is reluctant to use single methods, even though without them, the best the agency can do is find half of all pesticides in the food supply.

A 1993 review by the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) reports that single residue tests are required to find approximately 300 out of 630 pesticides used worldwide (FDA 1994a). Fourteen of these pesticides are canceled in the United States and more than 100 are listed as "foreign use" pesticides, meaning that they are not registered for any use in the United States (FDA 1994a). Federal regulators often have no idea of the health or environmental effects of pesticides used only in foreign countries. CFSAN also reports 363 metabolites, byproducts, and impurities of these pesticides that are required as part of the tolerance. Single residue tests are required to find 246, or two-thirds of these pesticide byproducts.

Many pesticides that require single residue analyses are of significant health concern. These include the carcinogens benomyl, Alar, and the EBDC fungicides, as well as many compounds canceled in the U.S. for various reasons, such as the arsenical compounds, carbon tetrachloride, EDB, DBCP, and dinoseb (Wiles, Elderkin et al. 1994).

Discrepancies Between Eastern and Western FDA Labs. Our January 1994 testimony also identified major discrepancies between FDA's eastern and western pesticide labs, and provided compelling evidence that the FDA's eastern labs are missing a significant percentage of legal and illegal pesticide residues.

To find the 200 pesticides that can be identified using the most common multi-residue detection method (the Luke extraction method), technicians must put each sample through six different detection screens. Our analysis of three years of test results (1990-1992) on 8,000 samples of 22 imported fruits and vegetables found that FDA labs rarely use all six screens. In particular, eastern labs typically use only half of the detection screens necessary to find all the pesticides that can be identified using the Luke method. In essence, eastern labs are operating at half capacity. This pattern held true for all 22 fruits and vegetables--each was tested equally poorly--and produced some serious and consistent disparities in the pesticides reported in food by the eastern, as compared to western, FDA pesticide labs (Wiles, Elderkin et al. 1994).

For 20 out of 22 crops evaluated, FDA's eastern labs detected significantly fewer pesticides than FDA's western labs. For the other two crops, the rates were nearly identical. The clear link between the failure to use detection methods and the failure to find residues, and the near universal detection of fewer pesticides in eastern labs, strongly suggests that eastern FDA labs are underreporting the levels of both legal and illegal pesticides present in the food supply.

Lack of Enforcement Authority

This report documents the fact that the FDA underreports illegal pesticides in fruits and vegetables. Several previous GAO reports, however, have shown that even when the FDA reports a violation, the public almost always eats the illegal pesticide.

Although the FDA is supposed to enforce pesticide tolerances in food, it has no authority to detain products during testing or to assess civil penalties on violators. As a result, even when food contains illegal pesticides, the FDA cannot keep it from reaching the consumer (GAO 1994b, 1992d).

This is especially true for domestically grown produce. Unless the FDA has a court order, the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) does not give FDA the authority to hold a shipment while it is being tested. The court order cannot be obtained, however, until after the product is found to contain illegal residues.

To make matters worse, the FDA has no authority to assess civil penalties against domestic producers whose food contains illegal pesticides. The only recourse is to pursue criminal charges through the U.S. Justice Department, which is costly, time-consuming, and therefore rarely feasible.

This system was sorely tested in 1994, when the FDA detected an illegal pesticide, chlorpyrifos-ethyl, in Cheerios.

Chapter 2: Illegal Pesticides in Produce

Forbidden Fruit analyzes 14,923 records of FDA pesticide monitoring data on 42 fruits and vegetables for the years 1992 and 1993. (For a detailed explanation of the methodology, see the Appendix.) During this two-year period, the FDA reported that 470 of the 14,923 samples, or 3.1 percent, contained illegal residues. Our analysis yielded 826 violations in the same 14,923 samples, for an overall violation rate of 5.6 percent (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The American public is eating 76 percent more fruits and vegetables with illegal pesticides than reported by the FDA.

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Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

The ubiquity of illegal pesticides in these fruits and vegetables seriously erodes the integrity of the pesticide food safety system (See The Health Effects of Pervasive Illegal Pesticides in Food). This would not be the case if violations were isolated occurrences. Unfortunately, they are not. Illegal pesticides are pervasive and systemic across the fruit and vegetable industry. In fact, as will be shown below, from one-third to one-half of the pesticides detected on five common foods over the two-year period were illegal.

We found five different types of pesticide violations among the data we reviewed (Table 2).

These include:

  • No-tolerance violations--pesticides which have no tolerance for the crops on which they are detected. Most of these residues represent an illegal use of the pesticide.
  • Over-tolerance violations--pesticides found at levels exceeding legal limits.
  • Action level violations--banned pesticides that persist in the environment found at levels exceeding FDA-established limits.
  • Trace no-tolerance violations--pesticides with no tolerance that are positively identified at levels too small to be quantified by FDA methods. These positively identified illegal residues represent an illegal use of a pesticide.
  • Canceled pesticides--pesticides banned for use on some or all crops in the U.S.

Table 2. Summary of Results.

table graphic

The total number of no-tolerance, over-tolerance, action level, trace, and canceled pesticides are greater than the total number reported and identified by the FDA due to the presence of multiple illegal pesticides on many different samples.
Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

No-tolerance violations

The FDA's biggest failure is in recognizing "no-tolerance" violations--situations where the pesticide is not allowed for use on that crop (or in some cases on any crop), but where residues of the pesticide were identified and quantified by the FDA.

The FDA identified and reported 372 of these no-tolerance situations as violations; the Environmental Working Group found that the FDA had quantified, but failed to report as illegal, 183 additional "no-tolerance" violations, making 555 the true total of FDA-identified no-tolerance pesticides. Nearly all of these no-tolerance violations represent the illegal use of a pesticide. Some very small percentage may result from cross contamination of packing facilities that are tainted with post harvest pesticides applied to other crops.

For each "no-tolerance" crop/pesticide combination, our data show that FDA inspectors typically reported some of the violations, but not all. Even within the same lab, the FDA often declared some samples as illegal, yet failed to count other samples with even higher levels of the same pesticide on the same crop. For instance, acephate, an insecticide not allowed for use on tomatoes, was found on two Mexican tomatoes tested in Los Angeles in March and April of 1993. The sample with a residue at 0.008 ppm was reported as a violation, while the sample with a much higher concentration of acephate, 0.100 ppm, was not. This problem is pervasive across most FDA labs and crops tested.

Our investigation found 53 different pesticides with illegal, no-tolerance residues on just 42 fruits and vegetables. The FDA reported some of the violations for 43 of these pesticides, but the agency failed to report any illegal residues at all for 10 of the illegal chemicals.

Over-tolerance violations

The second type of illegal pesticide residue is an "over-tolerance" violation. These are pesticides that are allowed for use on the crop, but were found at levels exceeding the legal maximum level (the tolerance). The FDA did a far better job reporting the over-tolerance violations than no-tolerance violations. Even so, the discrepancy between over-tolerance residues identified by the FDA and those reported as violations, is significant.

The FDA reported just 94 over-tolerance violations, yet identified 127 over-tolerance samples, 35 percent more than it reported.

The number of over-tolerance violations is kept relatively low by the fact that tolerances for many heavily used pesticides were set in the 1950s and 1960s and have never been revised to reflect new toxicity information for the pesticide. A good example of such a pesticide is captan, which was first registered and granted tolerances in the 1950s, based on what by contemporary standards is very flimsy health and safety information. Today it is classified as a probable human carcinogen, yet the tolerances set four decades ago are still in force and run as high as 100 parts per million (ppm) for some crops, such as cherries, lettuce, plums, and spinach. To meet the EPA's one-in-one-million cancer risk standard, the tolerances for these crops would need to be reduced approximately 100-fold. If captan tolerances were lowered to meet a health-based standard, over-tolerance violations would skyrocket.

It is well established that tolerances for many pesticides exceed federal health standards (Fisher 1992a, Fisher 1992b). Examples include captan and the EBDC fungicides, where exposure at the legal limit (tolerance) exceeds federal health standards by more than 100-fold, as well as the insecticides endosulfan and methamidaphos, where exposure at the tolerance exceeds federal health standards by factors of 25 and 50 respectively. EPA allows these tolerances to remain on the book nonetheless, based on the calculation that most of the residues in the food supply are well below the tolerances and close to negligible risk levels. For some pesticides this is true, for others it is not. In total, however, combined exposures to pesticides in food far exceed negligible risk levels.

One effect of these unusually high tolerances is to desensitize FDA personnel to the occurrence of relatively high pesticide residues that are violations. Of the 15 samples with the highest illegal pesticide residues, the agency missed five. These included a U.S. onion sample with residues of captan (a pesticide canceled for use on onions) at 89 ppm (three and a half times higher than the tolerance of 25 ppm), and a peach sample with the pesticide pronamide at 8 ppm (80 times higher than the tolerance of 0.1 ppm).

The FDA, however, did report several other egregious violations. A domestic onion sample had a residue of chlorothalonil, a probable carcinogen, at 95.4 ppm (190 times the tolerance of 0.5 ppm). A green pea sample contained residues from another class of probable carcinogens, the EBDC pesticides, at 23.1 ppm (over three times the tolerance of 7 ppm), and a leaf lettuce sample contained an estrogenic pesticide with the potency of DDT, endosulfan, at 15.6 ppm (nearly eight times the tolerance of 2 ppm).

Together, "no-tolerance" and "over-tolerance" pesticides account for 79 percent of the violations identified by the FDA, and nearly all of the violations that the FDA reported. The other 21 percent of illegal pesticides are from action level excedences, trace violations, or canceled pesticides.

Action level violations

There is essentially no difference between the Environmental Working Group and FDA figures for action level violations. These are violations from banned pesticides, such as DDT, heptachlor, dieldrin, and endrin, among others. Although these pesticides were banned long ago in the United States, they degrade slowly in soil and are routinely detected in crops that grow in the soil or close to the ground. In some countries, they are still allowed for use. These pesticides do not have official food tolerances; instead they are deemed "unavoidable pesticide residues," and the FDA is given the authority to set levels below which it will not take enforcement action.

Trace violations

A trace violation is a "no-tolerance" pesticide that is detected and identified on that food at a level below which the exact amount of the pesticide can be quantified by standard FDA methods. The FDA data show 135 samples with trace violations; the agency acted on none of these.

As a matter of policy, trace violations are ignored because the agency fears that they would not hold up in court if challenged (Wessel 1995). This logic stretches credulity given the fact that illegal pesticide residues are almost never prosecuted.

Trace violations are illegal because the pesticide has been positively identified as present on the food, and because the legal level for the pesticide is zero. Nearly all trace violations could be confirmed, quantified, and acted on using off-the-shelf technologies.

Ironically, we did find five samples on which trace illegal residues were marked by the FDA as violations.

Canceled pesticides

This category of violations comes from pesticides that are canceled for use on particular foods, but where tolerances for those pesticides still remain in effect. In this situation, the FDA's hands are tied. As long as the tolerances for canceled pesticides remain on the books, foods containing these pesticides are considered legal. The FDA could, however, inform state enforcement officials of these illegal pesticide uses. To our knowledge, FDA personnel never initiated any such action.

Technically speaking, residues of canceled pesticides with tolerances still on the books are legal, even though the use has been banned in the United States. This situation allows foreign growers to use pesticides that domestic growers cannot. There is no scientific or health and safety rationale to this policy; it is simply an artifact of the way EPA (which sets and revokes tolerances) does business.

When the EPA cancels all or some uses of a pesticide it is almost always based on the determination that the pesticide should not be present on the food we eat. A December 1994 General Accounting Office report found, however, that when EPA cancels a pesticide it takes on average 6.6 years to revoke its associated tolerances. Part of this time (perhaps two years) is to allow for the depletion of existing stocks. Most of the delay, however, is due to the low priority that the EPA assigns tolerance revocation, and the lack of a policy or written guidelines to link revocation with cancellation (GAO 1994c).

During the late 1980s, the EPA canceled many of the uses of folpet and captan (a probable carcinogen and one of the most widely used pesticides). Most of the associated tolerances for these two pesticides, however, remain in the Code of Federal Regulations. The FDA identified 38 samples that contained residues of these pesticides on crops for which they are canceled in the United States. Eighteen captan violations came from domestically-grown produce, and thus represent an illegal use by the individual grower. In no situation did the FDA help initiate enforcement action against these growers. In every case the resulting food was sold to consumers.

Multiple Violations on Single Samples

No-tolerance violations accounted for 64 percent of the total violations that the FDA identified, over-tolerance violations accounted for 15 percent, action level violations totaled 1 percent, and canceled and trace no-tolerance violations made up the remaining 20 percent (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Eighty-six percent of the pesticide violations* identified by the FDA are for pesticides not allowed for use on that crop.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Some samples, however, contained more than one kind of illegal pesticide. For instance, a lettuce sample could contain a no-tolerance pesticide, chlorothalonil, and a legal pesticide, endosulfan, at a level over the tolerance. Or a sample could contain an action level violation and a no-tolerance violation. We did not include multiple violations of single samples in our overall tally of illegal samples. In calculating the 5.6 percent violation rate, all multiple violations were counted only as one illegal sample.

Multiple illegal pesticides on a single sample were not uncommon. Of the 826 samples contaminated with illegal pesticides, 82 had two illegal pesticides on the same sample, and seven had three violations. FDA detected two or more illegal pesticides on more than ten samples of strawberries, hot peppers, and green peas.

Crops

The FDA identified illegal pesticides on 5.6 percent of the 42 commonly consumed crops studied in this report. Some crops, however, were considerably more contaminated than others.

Twelve foods had violation rates greater than the 5.6 percent average (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Twelve commodities exceed the average 5.6 percent violation rate.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Green peas and pears topped the list, with violation rates of 24.7 percent and 15.7 percent respectively. For three other commonly consumed foods--apple juice (12.5 percent), blackberries (12.4 percent) and green onions (11.7 percent)--more than ten percent of the crop contained illegal residues. Other popular foods with above average rates of illegal pesticides included hot peppers (9.7 percent), green beans (7.6 percent), strawberries (7.4 percent), and carrots (6.5 percent).

The FDA failed to report at least one illegal pesticide on 35 of the 42 different crops we analyzed, and under-reported illegal pesticides for each of the 20 commodities with the highest percentage of illegal pesticides (Figure 4). The agency missed almost half of the green pea violations, as well as 18 of 20 pesticide violations on carrots. Even worse, none of the illegal pesticides on apple juice, cranberries, and oranges were reported by the FDA. The agency made mistakes the other way as well; it reported at least 23 samples as violations when tolerances existed for the residues present.

Figure 4. The FDA underreports violation rates on the 20 commodities with the highest percentages of illegal pesticides.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Among the foods with the best compliance rates, avocados were free of any illegal pesticides; only one pesticide was even detected on the 136 samples. Tangerines had no violations either. Potatoes and cauliflower samples contained only one violation apiece, and grapefruit had illegal residues on just two samples. Other than potatoes and perhaps grapefruit, however, these "cleaner" foods do not account for a significant percent of the average daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Particularly worrisome is the sheer number of different illegal pesticides found on each crop. Seventeen different illegal pesticides--twelve with no-tolerance, four over-tolerance, and one canceled use--were detected on green peas over two years (Figure 5). Fourteen different illegal pesticides were found on hot peppers and squash, 12 on strawberries, 11 on carrots and pears, and 10 each on cantaloupes and bell peppers. A substantial percentage of these foods were contaminated with more than one illegal pesticide.

Figure 5. The FDA found from 6 to 17 different illegal pesticides on 24 different crops in 1992 and 1993.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

For Some Crops One Half of the Residue Load was Illegal

For some crops, more than 50 percent of the residues detected (the total residue load found on the crop) were illegal (Figure 6). Over 64 percent of the pesticide residues found on bulb onions were illegal, as were 51.7 percent of the residues on apple juice and 50.6 percent of those on green peas. Thirty percent of the residues found on green onions were illegal, as were 28.4 percent of the pineapple detections, 26.4 percent of the pear detections, and 22.6 percent of the carrot detections. If a pesticide is present on these foods, there is a good chance that it is illegal.

Figure 6. More than 10 percent of the detected pesticide load was illegal for 16 commodities.

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Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Countries

Crops From Some Countries Are Particularly Contaminated

Fifteen different crops from eleven different countries comprise the 20 worst commodity/country combinations. Seven of the 20 crops with the highest percentage of illegal pesticides came from Mexico, three from the United States, and two each from Argentina, Columbia, and Guatemala (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Twenty crop/country combinations far exceed FDA's reported average violation rate of 3.1 percent for 42 fruits and vegetables.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Some violation rates were incredibly high. Nearly 49 percent of the pears imported from Korea were contaminated with illegal pesticides, as were 40.8 percent of green peas from Guatemala, 34.1 percent of the peas from China, and 16.7 percent of the green onions from the United States. Violation rates were high for many important sources of major fruits and vegetables, including Mexican strawberries (18.4 percent), Mexican head lettuce (15.6 percent), Guatemalan blackberries (14.6 percent), U.S. pears (14.3 percent), Argentine pears (12.9 percent), Mexican carrots (12.3 percent), Chilean kiwi (11.7 percent), Mexican leaf lettuce (11.3 percent), U.S. tomatoes (9.4 percent), and Mexican green beans (9.4 percent).

If these violation rates are representative of the overall percentage of adulterated food, as the FDA and representatives of the produce industry routinely imply when using FDA data to support their claim that the food supply is safe, then more than one billion pounds of contaminated produce line the shelves of America's grocery stores every year.

To determine just how many pounds of produce carrying illegal pesticides could be distributed to the public, we turned to the USDA production and utilization data for 1992 and 1993. Based on the contamination rates identified by the FDA, seven popular domestically-grown fruits and vegetables contribute approximately one billion pounds of contaminated produce to the food supply each year (Table 3), including such common foods as peaches, tomatoes, and pears. Based again on FDA-identified violations, the primary supplier of imported produce, Mexico, exported to the United States an additional 82 million pounds of fruits and vegetables adulterated with illegal pesticides.

Table 3. Seven U.S. crops contribute approximately one billion pounds of produce contaminated with illegal pesticides to the food supply each year.

table graphic

Figures are from FY 1992 and 1993 unless otherwise indicated.
Sources: Environmental Working Group. Violation rates compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only. U.S. production figures compiled from USDA Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 1994 Preliminary (FR NT 1-3(95)) and USDA Vegetables 1994 Summary (Vg 1-2(95)), National Agricultural Statistics Service, January 1995. Import figures are from Foreign Agricultural Trade of the U.S., November/December 1993.
*Indicates source is from 1991: USDA U.S. Imports of Fruits and Vegetables Under Plant Quarantine Regulations, Fiscal Year 1991. Economic Research Service. Statistical Bulletin Number 859, August 1993.

Broken down by crop, this translates to about 369 million pounds of U.S. peaches, 352 million pounds of U.S. tomatoes, 100 million pounds of U.S. green onions, 92 million pounds U.S. of pears, 83 million pounds of U.S. bell peppers, and 42 million pounds of U.S. green peas that were contaminated with illegal pesticides--yet entered the marketplace--in 1992 and 1993. From Mexico, this translates to 21 million pounds of hot peppers, 18 million pounds of watermelons, 17 million pounds of squash, 14 million pounds of strawberries, and 12 million pounds of carrots marketed with illegal pesticides during this two-year period.

Violations from Many Countries are Underreported. Even when the FDA sets up a special program to monitor problem situations, significant percentages of illegal produce slip through to the market. In 1992, the FDA set up a program targeted at repeated violations by Guatemalan snowpea growers. Despite this program, the FDA missed nearly one-half of the illegal shipments. Our analysis showed that 41 percent of the Guatemalan pea samples contained illegal residues; the FDA found only 21 percent in violation.

The countries and crops that were sampled the most (U.S., Mexico, and Guatemala) were also the most underreported (Figure 8). The actual violation rates for 16 different crops from these three countries were up to nine times higher than what the FDA reported. For instance, violation rates for Mexican carrots were seven times the FDA's reported violation rate, U.S. pears four and a half times higher, and U.S. green onions more than triple. These lists are symptomatic of the entire supply of fruits and vegetables. Twenty-five country/crop combinations were three times higher than FDA's reported violation rate and 47 combinations were double the agency's rate.

Figure 8. The FDA detected illegal pesticides on Mexican, Guatemalan, and US crops two to nine times more often than it reported.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

 

Country summary

Thirteen countries had violation rates which exceeded the overall average of 5.6 percent (Figure 9). Some of these countries are major importers, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, and Columbia.

Figure 9. Crops imported from 13 different countries have above average violation rates.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

Other countries import just a few foods, and because one or two crops contain a high percentage of violations, these countries have the highest violation rates. This is the case with Korea, Japan, China, and Greece, as well as Italy, Spain, Peru, Belgium, and Trinidad. Due to illegal pesticides on pears, imports from Korea and Japan contain the highest percentage of violations of any country we analyzed. China had problems with green peas, and Greece had violations on peaches and hot peppers.

Violations are common when countries begin exporting new commodities to the United States. These nine countries are not traditional exporters, and their growers, exporters, and governments lack information about U.S. pesticide registrations and tolerances. The FDA must pay close attention to new sources of fresh produce, sampling with more frequency and educating the appropriate players about U.S. pesticide laws.

But high violation rates are not relegated to countries unfamiliar with our tolerances. Of the 13 countries from which the FDA sampled more than 100 times over two years, four exceeded the overall average: Guatemala (24.8 percent), Argentina (10.7 percent), Columbia (8.5 percent), and Mexico (7.4 percent). Most growers and exporters in these countries should be aware of U.S. pesticide laws.

Of those countries whose crops were sampled the most, all but one had a violation rate higher than what the FDA reported (Figure 10). Again Guatemala stands out, primarily due to its problem with snow peas and blackberries. The FDA reported just 13.8 of the 24.8 percent of violations on Guatemalan produce.

Figure 10. Illegal pesticides go unreported on crops from countries that the FDA samples most frequently.*

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

More problematic are the illegal pesticides that go unreported from Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which provide the bulk of the nation's staple produce. The agency took 3,442 samples of 34 Mexican crops in 1992 and 1993, but reported only 4.2 of the 7.4 percent illegal residues it identified. The FDA underreported Mexican no-tolerance violations by one-half and over-tolerance violations by one-third. The number of illegal pesticides on Canadian produce was more than three times what the FDA reported, at 5.0 percent.

And more than one-half of the illegal pesticides on domestic fruits and vegetables went unreported. The FDA-reported violation rate for U.S. produce was 1.5 percent, but the agency identified illegal pesticides on 3.1 percent of its 6,637 samples. For some major U.S. crops, the violations were well above average, including green onions at 16.7 percent, pears at 14.3 percent, tomatoes at 9.4 percent, green peas at 8.6 percent, and peaches at 6.1 percent. These violation rates were also significantly underreported. In essence, the United States' produce supply is twice as contaminated with illegal pesticides as the FDA reports.

Chemicals

Sixty-six different pesticides on just 42 fruits and vegetables violated U.S. food tolerances or were illegally used in 1992 and 1993. This included 53 different pesticides with no-tolerance violations, 24 different pesticides found above established limits, two banned pesticides detected above the FDA action level, and three chemicals canceled for use in the United States but detected by the FDA (Table 4).

Table 4. Sixty-six different pesticides were illegally present on 42 different fruits and vegetables.

table graphic

1. Probable Human Carcinogen. Source: EPA 1994a. List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential. Memo to EPA Health Effects Division by Rito Engler, PhD. April 1, 1994.
2. Possible Human Carcinogen. Source: EPA 1994. List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential. Memo to EPA Health Effects Division by Rito Engler, PhD. April 1, 1994.
3. Reproductive Toxins and Endocrine Disruptors. Source: Colborn, Theo, Frederick vom Saal, Ana Soto 1993. Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Distrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans. Environmental Health Perspectives. 101(5):379.
4. Oral Toxicity Category 1 Pesticide. LD50<50. Source: Farm Chemicals Handbook 1994. Meister Publishing Company. Ohio.
5. Banned in the U.S. on all food crops. Source: EPA 1990. Suspended, Canceled, and Restricted Pesticides. February 1990.
6. Banned in the U.S. on some food crops. Source: EPA 1990. Suspended, Canceled, and Restricted Pesticides. February 1990.
7. Not registered on any crops in the U.S. Source: FDA 1994. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition/Division of Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Summary of Pesticides Recovered Through Six Multiresidue Methods Used in FDA Pesticide Program, January 24, 1994.
Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

The FDA failed to report any violations for ten pesticides with multiple no-tolerance violations. Three of these pesticides--chlorpyrifos-methyl, imazalil, and thiabendazole--were found on six or more crops. The FDA missed five additional pesticides that were over-tolerance for all of the crops they were found on.

Some pesticides were illegally used on many different crops (Figure 11). Methamidaphos, an insecticide, was illegally used on 19 different foods. Seventeen uses had no tolerance, and two (hot and sweet peppers) were over established tolerances. Chlorpyrifos was found illegally on 16 crops and omethoate was detected illegally on 15. Acephate, captan, chlorthalonil, and permethrin were found illegally on 14 different crops.

Figure 11. Nine illegal pesticides were found on ten or more crops.

table graphic

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Database FY 1992 and 1993. Surveillance data only.

It is clear from this analysis that illegal pesticide use is widespread. Domestic and foreign growers routinely use popular pesticides on crops for which they are not registered.

Chapter 3: Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions

Pesticides are ubiquitous on fruits and vegetables, and this report has found that illegal pesticides are considerably more common than the Food and Drug Administration reports. Everyone who eats fruits and vegetables eats illegal pesticides.

The FDA pesticide monitoring program is hampered at each step by a lack of resources, poor management, and deficient enforcement powers. Because the FDA tests so few samples each year and because most illegal food--whether tested or not--reaches the consumer, the resulting violation rates only tell part of the story. Assuming, as the FDA does, that the violation rates identified by its labs are a reasonably accurate depiction of the overall food supply, billions of pounds of contaminated produce enter U.S. markets each year.

The situation sorely tests the credibility of the pesticide regulatory system. A person following the USDA-recommended diet of five fruits and vegetables a day will consume produce contaminated with illegal pesticide residues at least 75 times each year. On the flip side, the average consumer has to eat about 100 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in order to eat from a shipment tested for pesticides by the FDA. Looked at yet another way, the average American is at least 15 times more likely to eat an illegal pesticide than to eat from a shipment tested by the FDA.

Some crops and countries had violation rates considerably higher than the overall average. One-quarter of all green peas (especially those from Guatemala and the United States), 15.7 percent of all pears (imported from Asia and grown domestically), and about 12 percent of apple juice, blackberries, and green onions were contaminated with illegal residues. The FDA detected ten or more different illegal pesticides on eight different crops, including carrots, strawberries, pears, and cantaloupe.

The FDA underreported the actual rate of illegal pesticides in these 42 fruits and vegetables by 76 percent. Much of the underreporting by the FDA labs is due to its lack of an automated pesticide tolerance database with which to compare its testing results. The practice of checking all results manually simply leaves too much room for human error.

Recommendations: HACCP

More taxpayer money is not the answer to FDA's problems. In fact, there is not enough money in the entire FDA food regulatory budget to fix the pesticide monitoring program in its current form.

To minimize the widespread illegal use of pesticides in the fruit and vegetable industry, a fundamental restructuring of the pesticide tolerance enforcement system is needed. The centerpiece of this redesign must be a shift of responsibility for assuring food safety and compliance with federal law to its appropriate place: the food industry. In simplest terms, individuals and corporations who sell food treated with pesticides must establish systems and procedures whereby they can assure the FDA that the pesticides remaining on the food comply with federal limits. Currently this is not the case.

This report, and 22 previous GAO reports, amply demonstrate that the FDA cannot monitor the food supply for pesticides with current resources and legal authority. A computerized tolerance database would minimize mistakes by lab inspectors and is needed to build quality control into the system, but even a vastly enlarged testing program will never solve the problem of illegal pesticide residues in food. End-product testing does not prevent violations from occurring, especially when the food is already moving in commerce and the chances of being reprimanded by the government for a violation are so minimal.

A more efficient and cost-effective approach to ensure pesticide compliance would be one based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) methods. HACCP is being used to tackle microbial contamination problems within the seafood industry, and recently it has been adopted by food companies and other industries. HACCP is a systems approach to food safety, emphasizing quality control from the start of the process and at each critical stage. Under HACCP, the responsibility for ensuring the safety of the food supply is shared between government and industry.

This approach creates a more appropriate and realistic role for the FDA. Under a HACCP system the private sector would be responsible for residue testing; the FDA would police the testing process, and focus its limited testing resources on trouble spots. The appropriate analogy is the manner in which health and safety studies are conducted to register pesticides with the EPA. The EPA does not commission and pay for health and safety tests. Instead, the pesticide registrant incurs these costs to obtain the privilege of selling the pesticide. The EPA, in turn, audits both the results of the studies and the labs that conduct the animal tests. Likewise, the food industry should incur the cost of a HACCP program in order to provide the public with proof, not otherwise currently available, that marketed food meets legal standards.

Elements of a HACCP Approach for Pesticide Tolerance Enforcement

Three important elements must be present and working symbiotically for a HACCP approach to be successful:

  • Third-party certification
  • Recordkeeping and public disclosure
  • Education

Third-party certification. The FDA and taxpayers should not be solely responsible for all pesticide residue monitoring and enforcement. Instead, the food sector of the economy, which accounts for a greater percentage of the GNP than the health care industry, must be required to prove with reasonable certainty that imported and domestic food marketed in the United States meets U.S. food safety standards. This means testing and providing documentation of compliance with pesticide tolerances for all shipments of produce sold in the United States.

Under such a system, growers and importers would be required to provide certification prior to sale to both the retailer and the FDA that all pesticide residues on a given shipment are in compliance with U.S. standards. Such certification must be based on third-party sampling and testing and done by labs using FDA-approved pesticide analytical methods. Incentives must be put in place to reward third-party labs for finding violations.

Third-party sampling and certification will require more effort on the part of importers and growers, especially in terms of maintaining lot integrity, but the idea is readily achievable, especially if record keeping is required. The costs to consumers will be negligible; less than one-tenth of a penny per pound based on experience from current third-party certification programs. Without the active involvement of the fruit and vegetable industry, the American public will never have any reasonable assurance that the produce they eat is not contaminated with illegal pesticide residues.

Recordkeeping and public disclosure. All pesticides applied to a crop must be listed on each domestic and imported shipment. This list must include pesticides whose residues typically degrade below levels normally detected by routine analysis, as well as those likely to leave residues. Civil penalties must be available to the FDA as an enforcement mechanism when pesticides not listed are found on a shipment. Lists must be made available to the public upon request.

Records are good business practice, and an integral facet of any HACCP program. A recordkeeping requirement would enable both third-party inspectors and FDA labs to use their resources more wisely in searching for pesticides on food.

Public access to these records and civil fines for confirmed disparities between the records and residues found, would act as an additional deterrent to illegal pesticide use.

Education. New systems must be created to provide growers with up-to-date information about the acceptable use of pesticides on food. For importers, the FDA must provide this information in the importing countries' primary language.

Growers--importers and domestic producers--must be kept fully versed on the tolerance system in the United States. To make this happen, the FDA must assemble and make publicly available a computerized, on-line pesticide tolerance system that is updated monthly. Questions about pesticide label rates and tolerances should be handled by an easy-to-reach phone hotline. At the same time, growers should be encouraged to reduce the use of pesticides through integrated pest management strategies and alternatives to chemicals.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Molly Evans, who designed and produced the report in hard copy and the WWW version, Jillaine Smith from the Institute for Global Communications for patient guidance through the Web, Kert Davies for editorial assistance, and to Ken Cook for his editing and insight.

Forbidden Fruit:  Illegal Pesticides in the U.S. Food Supply was made possible by grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and The Turner Foundation.  A computer equipment grant from the Apple Computer Corporation made our analysis possible.  The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts or other supporters listed above.

Copyright February 1995 by the Environmental Working Group/The Tides Foundation.
All rights reserved.
 

Methodology: 

The backbone of this report is the discrepancy between the number of illegal pesticides identified by FDA chemists and the number of illegal pesticides actually reported by the agency as violations. During an initial review of the agency's data we discovered a persistent pattern of unreported pesticide violations. These included pesticides not allowed for use on certain foods and pesticides found at levels well above the legal limit that were not identified as illegal. Further examination showed these gaps to be pervasive across the food supply and present in almost every FDA laboratory.

Concerned by this discovery, we began a systematic audit of FDA violations. To do the job properly and efficiently, however, we needed a database which contained pesticide tolerances for each crop/pesticide combination that existed in the FDA monitoring database.

Because it would be most efficient to work from the same database as the FDA, we asked the agency to provide us with the pesticide tolerance database it uses in its regional labs. This attempt, however, was derailed by the discovery that the FDA has no computerized database of pesticide food tolerances (Jones 1994), and thus the agency has no way to run its pesticide residue test results through an updated computerized system that will automatically check for violations. Instead, each laboratory relies on one or two individuals familiar with pesticide tolerances to manually check each lab result with the most recent information available to identify illegal pesticides in food. These procedures leave enormous room for human error and great latitude for discretionary enforcement of U.S. law.

Because no database existed that would enable us to determine which samples contained illegal residues, we created one. The Environmental Working Group database is limited to the 42 fruits and vegetables analyzed in this study. It contains tolerances, special exemptions, and action levels for all of the pesticides detected on these foods during the years 1992 and 1993. It is based on pesticide tolerances enumerated in the (Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 40 Parts 180, 185, and 186) from 1992 and 1993, amended to reflect any changes to these tolerances that may have occurred during these years and would thus not have been published in the CFR (such as those reported each week in the Pesticide Chemical News Guide), modified to include information from the EPA on so-called emergency exemptions allowed under section 18 of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (Fried 1995), and updated to cover canceled pesticide uses (EPA 1990). We refined the database numerous times to account, as the FDA does, for the incidental presence of industrial contaminants, allowable levels of banned pesticides which degrade slowly in the environment (i.e. DDT, endrin, heptachlor), and for metabolites (breakdown products of pesticides) (Wessel 1995).

Using this database, we compared the pesticides that the FDA identified on these 42 crops with the pesticides and levels of these pesticides legally allowed. We found 381 cases where the FDA failed to report illegal pesticides as violations.

To verify that we had simply not discovered an anomaly in the FDA database, we calculated the average violation rate for these 42 fruits and vegetables on the basis of those pesticides reported by FDA as violations. The result was a 3.1 percent violation rate, similar to the rate the FDA routinely reports to the public. This result confirms that the illegal pesticides identified, but not reported by the FDA, represent legitimate underreporting of violations on the part of the agency.

 

The FDA Data

The Environmental Working Group prepared this analysis by examining the latest available pesticide residue data from the routine pesticide surveillance program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for fiscal years 1992 and 1993 (referred to as 1992 and 1993 in the report). These data provide residue results of surveillance (random) and compliance (known violators) tests on approximately 30,000 samples of imported and domestic food that the FDA analyzed during 1992 and 1993. The commodities covered include all foods except meat, eggs, and dairy products, which are monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For purposes of this report, we limited our analysis to the 14,923 samples of 42 different fresh fruits and vegetables which Americans eat the most. These samples are derived from routine surveillance test results for the two-year period, where produce is selected at random from the food supply. Compliance samples, those aimed at problem growers, were eliminated from our analysis.

According to the USDA, the fruits and vegetables analyzed in this report comprise 96 and 83 percent respectively of the total consumption nationwide (USDA 1993b). Most of these commodities are both imported and grown domestically. Overall, 38 percent of fruits and 7.5 percent of vegetables are imported (USDA 1993b). This report examined all samples of the 42 foods targeted, regardless of origin.

FDA's database contains a host of information specific to each individual sample. The data utilized in this report include:

  • the product sampled,
  • the country of origin,
  • the pesticides FDA looked for,
  • the pesticides found,
  • the level at which the pesticide was found, and,
  • whether FDA found the residues in violation of U.S. food tolerances.

 

References: 

Code of Federal Regulations 1992. Title 40, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, Parts 180, 185, and 186.

Code of Federal Regulations 1992. Title 40, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, Parts 180, 185, and 186.

Colborn, Theo, Frederick vom Saal, Ana Soto 1993. Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans. Environmental Health Perspectives. 101(5):379.

EPA 1990. Suspended, Canceled, and Restricted Pesticides. February 1990.

EPA 1994a. List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential. Memo to EPA Health Effects Division by Rito Engler, Ph.D.. April 1, 1994.

EPA 1994b. Pesticide Reregistration Program Report. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. April 1994.

Farm Chemicals Handbook 1994. Meister Publishing Company. Willoughby, Ohio. 1994.

FDA 1986. FDA Action Levels for Unavoidable Pesticide Residues in Food and Feed Commodities. Food and Drug Administration Compliance Policy Guides, Chapter 41 (7141.01) - Pesticides, December 1986. Updated as of January 1995. Received through personal communication with John R. Wessel, Director FDA Contaminants Policy Staff.

FDA 1992. Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Data Base, FY 1992. Surveillance data only.

FDA 1993. Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Monitoring Data Base, FY 1993. Surveillance data only.

FDA 1993a. New Zealand Certified Fruit Shipment Guidance. Memorandum from Acting Chief, Import Programs Branch, Division of Field Program Planning and Evaluation to All RFDDs, Directors, and Import Managers. October 29, 1993.

FDA 1993b. Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Program - Residue Monitoring 1992. Journal of AOAC International. 1993.

FDA 1994a. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition/Division of Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Summary of Pesticides Recovered Through Six Multiresidue Methods Used in FDA Pesticide Program, January 24, 1994.

FDA 1994b. FDA Comments on GAO Draft Report Entitled: Food Safety: Changes Needed to Minimize Unsafe Chemical Residues. Memo from Diane Thompson, HHS, to John Harmon, GAO. Aug. 5, 1994.

FDA 1994c. Food and Drug Administration Pesticide Program - Residue Monitoring 1993. Journal of AOAC International. 1993.

Fisher 1992a. Memo from Linda Fisher, Assistant Administrator EPA to Senator Edward Kennedy comparing the Theoretical Maximum Residue Contribution to the Reference Dose. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. March 30, 1992.

Fisher 1992b. List of Food Use Carcinogens and Their Risk Numbers Based on the Theoretical Maximum Residue Contribution. Memo from Linda Fisher, Assistant Administrator EPA to Keith Pitts. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Fried 1995. Personal communication with Larry Fried for Section 18 emergency pesticide exemptions, Emergency Response Section, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. January 20, 1995.

Foreign Agricultural Trade of the U.S. 1993. Department of Commerce. November/December 1993.

GAO 1980a. Need for Comprehensive Pesticide Use Data. GAO/CED-80-145. September 30, 1980.

GAO 1980b. Further Federal Action Needed to Detect and Control Environmental Contamination of Food. GAO/CED-81-19. December 31, 1980.

GAO 1981. Stronger Enforcement Needed Against Misuse of Pesticides. GAO/CED-82-5. October 15, 1981.

GAO 1984. Legislative Changes and Administrative Improvements Should Be Considered for FDA to Better Protect the Public From Adulterated Food Products. GAO/HRD-84-61. September 26, 1984.

GAO 1986a. Pesticides: Better Sampling and Enforcement Needed on Imported Food. GAO/RCED-86-219. September 26, 1986.

GAO 1986b. Food And Drug Administration: Laboratory Analysis of Product Samples Needs to Be More Timely. GAO/HRD-86-102. September 1986.

GAO 1986c. Pesticides: Need to Enhance FDA's Ability to Protect the Public From Illegal Residues. GAO/RCED-87-7. April 18, 1986.

GAO 1987. Federal Regulation of Pesticide Residues in Food. GAO/T-RCED-87-21. April, 30, 1987. Testimony.

GAO 1988. Agricultural Trade. Causes and Impacts of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Imports. GAO/RCED-88-149-BR. May 1988.

GAO 1989a. Imported Foods: Opportunities to Improve FDA's Inspection Program. GAO/HRD-89-88. April 28, 1989.

GAO 1989b. Guidelines Needed for EPA's Tolerance Assessments of Pesticide Residues in Food. GAO/T-RCED-89-35. May 17, 1989. Testimony. GAO 1989c. Domestic Food Safety: FDA Could Improve Inspection Program to Make Better Use of Resources. GAO/HRD-89-125. September 27, 1989.

GAO 1990a. Food Safety and Quality: Five Countries' Efforts to Meet U.S. Requirements on Imported Produce. GAO/RCED-90-55. March 22, 1990.

GAO 1990b. Five Latin American Countries' Controls Over the Registration and Use of Pesticides. GAO/T-RCED-90-57, March 28, 1990. Testimony.

GAO 1990c. U.S. Food Exports: Five Countries Standards and Procedures for Testing Pesticide Residues. GAO/NSIAD-91-90. December 20, 1990.

GAO 1990d. Food Safety and Quality: Who Does What in the Federal Government. GAO/RCED-91-19B. December 21, 1990.

GAO 1992a. Pesticides: Comparison of U.S. and Mexican Pesticide Standards and Enforcement. GAO/RCED-92-140. June 17, 1992.

GAO 1992b. Food Safety and Quality: Uniform, Risk-Based Inspection System is Needed to Ensure Safe Food Supply. GAO/RCED-92-209. June 26, 1992.

GAO 1992c. Pesticides: Differences in U.S. and Mexican Pesticide Standards and Enforcement. GAO/T-RCED-92-62. July 9, 1992. Testimony.

GAO 1992d. Pesticides: Adulterated Imported Foods Are Reaching U.S. Grocery Shelves. GAO/RCED-92-205. September 24, 1992.

GAO 1993a. Pesticides: U.S. and Mexican Fruit and Vegetable Pesticide Programs Differ. GAO/T-RCED-93-9. February 18, 1993.

GAO 1993b. Pesticides: Status of FDA's Efforts to Improve Monitoring and Enforcement. GAO/T-RCED-93-55. June 16, 1993. Testimony.

GAO 1993c. Pesticides: Limited Testing Finds Few Exported Unregistered Pesticide Violations on Imported Foods. GAO/RCED-94-1. October 6, 1993.

GAO 1993d. Food Safety: A Unified, Risk-Based System Needed to Enhance Food Safety. GAO/RCED-94-71. November 4, 1993.

GAO 1994a. Food Safety: A Unified, Risk-Based Food Safety System Needed. GAO/T-RCED-94-233. May 25, 1994. Testimony.

GAO 1994b. Food Safety: Changes Needed to Minimize Unsafe Chemicals in Food. GAO/RCED-94-192. September 26, 1994.

GAO 1994c. Pesticides: Reducing Exposure to Residues of Canceled Pesticides. GAO/RCED-95-23. December 28, 1994.

Jones 1994. Personal communication with John Jones, Office of Policy, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. November 1994.

NRC 1993. Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. National Research Council. National Academy Press. Washington, DC. June 1993.

Shank 1991. Testimony of Fred R. Shank, Director of Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. July 10, 1991.

USDA 1993a. U.S. Imports of Fruits and Vegetables Under Plant Quarantine Regulations, Fiscal Year 1991. Economic Research Service. Statistical Bulletin Number 859. August 1993.

USDA 1993b. Food Consumption, Prices, and Expenditures, 1970-1992. Economic Research Service. Statistical Bulletin Number 867. September 1993.

USDA 1995a. Vegetables 1994 Summary (Vg 1-2(95)). National Agricultural Statistics Service. January 1995.

USDA 1995b. Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 1994 Preliminary (FR NT 1-3(95)). National Agricultural Statistics Service. January 1995.

Wessel 1995. Personal communication with John R. Wessel, Director, Contaminants Policy Staff, Food and Drug Administration Regulatory Affairs. February 2 and 7, 1995.

Wiles and Campbell 1993. Pesticides in Children's Foods. Environmental Working Group. June 1993.

Wiles, Elderkin, and Campbell 1994. Environmental Working Group Testimony before the Subcommittee on Economic Policy, Trade and the Environment, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. January 26, 1994.

Wiles and Campbell 1994. Washed, Peeled--Contaminated. Environmental Working Group. May 1994.

Wiles, Cohen, Campbell, and Elderkin 1994. Tap Water Blues. Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility. October 1994.

Young 1987. Testimony of Frank Young, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. April 30, 1987.

Key Issues: